Troy residents will face the question, “Do you favor the adoption of Act No. 2017-309, of the regular session of the Alabama Legislature authorizing the sale of alcoholic beverages after 12:00 p.m. on Sundays in the City of Troy?” on Tuesday, Oct. 10,
The voting has raised a storm of debates with moral and economic arguments on each side, respectively.
The current law is economically problematic because it stifles retailers in the city and drives customers away.
“If people want alcohol, they will get alcohol, you know,” said Alina Penjieva, a Troy University alumna and admissions counselor. “We are a college town, this is 2017 and more businesses (mean) more revenue for the city.”
Similarly, Daniel Smith, an associate professor of economics and co-author of the “Alabama at the Crossroads: An Economic Guide to a Fiscally Sustainable Future,” highlighted the advantages of the legislation for the city.
“I think it plays an important part in encouraging students to stay here in Troy rather than drive up to Auburn, Alabama or wherever they go, down to south Alabama to party …,” Smith said.
Besides the Sunday sales prohibition, the liquor industry in Alabama also faces disappointingly high tax rates.
As of January 2017, Alabama came as fourth in highest tax rates on alcohol with $18.25 per gallon, according to the Tax Foundation. To compare, neighboring Georgia came No. 36 with $3.79/gallon, Tennessee No. 34 with $4.46/gallon, Mississippi No. 15 with $7.98/gallon and Florida No. 20 with $6.50/gallon.
Smith said that this combination discourages both suppliers and producers and only somewhat affects consumption.
“Because there’s such an elastic demand for these goods, usually these taxes don’t reduce consumption very much,” Smith said. “Mainly the tax falls on suppliers and economic activity.”
In November of this year, ABC’s (Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board’s) 5 percent increase in the state markup on liquor, which was approved in June, will take hold.
According to the ABC’s press release on June 14, the increase was proposed as an alternative to increasing the sales taxes, and the expected $8.2 million in additional revenue will go to the public sector.
However, the concern raised about potential dangers of making alcohol more accessible cannot be ignored. In his 2007 book “Paying the Tab,” Duke University’s professor Philip J. Cook argued that higher alcohol prices via taxes and restrictions “promote public health and safety.”
“Higher prices are conducive to lower rates of underage drinking, traffic fatalities and sexually transmitted disease,” Cook writes.
On the other hand, accessibility may promote healthier alcohol consumption habits.
“In other schools that have banned alcohol on the campus … they go outside, get trashed and that’s binge drinking,” Penjieva commented. “And binge drinking is a problem.
“Instead they can just sip and enjoy the game.”
Troy University legalized alcohol sales during the football games in 2014 and, according to Penjieva, a self-professed football-frequenter, no incidents relating to alcohol abuse have occurred during games since then.
Finally, separation of church and state, the staple controversy of the American South, has a role in the conversation.
James Taylor, a Troy University campus detective who is a pastor himself, admitted that his religious beliefs would incline him to check “no” on the ballot, even despite the economic advantages.
“I think consumption of it will be (up to the individual), but Troy as a whole state policies law … I think that on Sunday we should stick with what we have already known because we see Alabama state as the Bible Belt South.”
On the other hand, implementation of a law based solely on a religious base does collide with the secular nature of the American Constitution.
“We are moving and we are growing, it’s obvious, but we need the mentality to move along too, so we can do better for the city and for the businesses,” Penjieva said.
Unfortunately, in this debate, the primary customer base has been excluded from the dialogue. Of the nearly 8,000 students residing on campus on average nine months of the year, only registered residents will have a say in the debate.
No matter what side residents are on, therefore, it is important for them to exercise their right to vote on Tuesday with the interest of all members of the community in mind.
The polling places at Troy Public Library, National Guard Armory, Troy Parks and Recreation Facility, First Baptist Church Activities Building and Pike County Courthouse will operate between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.